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Friday 14

Whether it's a woman, a sphinx, an Afghan hound, or just a rusted hulk, it's our rusted hulk, and it's 25 years old today. Celebrations of the Picasso sculpture's birthday start this afternoon at 4:30 in Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington, with ballroom dancing to the dulcet tones of the Stanley Paul Orchestra and the Ray Sassetti Big Band. Spanish dancers Pasqual Olivera and Angela Del Moro will perform, and several dozen local eateries will provide free ice cream and cake. Special guest: onetime Skidmore, Owings & Merrill partner William Hartmann, the master persuader who clinched the deal with Picasso back in 1967. It's free. Call 744-1424 for more.

If things have been going off-kilter in your life, blame the influence of Mercury in retrograde. But you can celebrate the planet's return to regular orbit tonight at Mercury Goes Direct, a fund-raising party at 8 at the Artemisia Gallery, 700 N. Carpenter. Psychics, astrologers, and tarot-card readers will be on hand and art from the likes of Ed Paschke, Nicole Hollander, and William Conger will be auctioned off to benefit the gallery's yearlong 20th anniversary celebration. Admission is $10; call 226-7323 for more.

Saturday 15

"The Elbow" is in the midst of that railyard mess south of the Loop, where the south branch of the Chicago River veers west and eventually turns into the Sanitary & Ship Canal. A Friends of the Chicago River two-hour guided walking tour of the Elbow's five bridges and the industrial neighborhood is scheduled for 10 this morning, starting at the bridge on 18th Street between Canal and Clark. It's $5, $3 for members. Call 939-0490 for more.

If, after four months of procrastinating, you still haven't mailed your 1991 tax return, maybe you should get some help. The deadline for those who applied for an automatic extension is today, so check in and file from 1 to 3 at the Rogers Park Public Library, 6907 N. Clark. The IRS people there can give free tax advice on everything from individual tax returns to complications like the earned tax and child-care credits, but they won't help with returns involving rental or business income. Call 744-0156 for more.

Chicago's black female stand-up comic talent base will be onstage tonight at the African-American Women in the Arts Conference II, held this weekend in ETA Square, 7558 S. South Chicago. Auditions held earlier this month provided the lineup; tonight at 9 the candidates will participate in open-mike competition, with the winner taking home $500. Admission is $10. Afterward, at midnight, there'll be a free poetry reading. Call 752-3955 for more.

Sunday 16

You can see the Beatles' cataclysmic early appearances on TV--on The Ed Sullivan Show, Ready, Steady, Go, Shindig, and elsewhere--and individual members' rather odd later ones, at a free five-hour Beatles on TV marathon today at the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Among the later stuff: John Lennon's extremely frank appearance on The Tomorrow Show, his and Yoko's circuslike week cohosting The Mike Douglas Show, and Paul McCartney's rather cheesy TV one-shots, including the rarely seen James Paul McCartney special and the recent fawning Put It There. WXRT's Terri Hemmert hosts the event, which runs from noon to 5 at the museum's new home in the Chicago Cultural Center, Michigan at Washington. Call 629-6000 for more.

Today's the day to learn about two subjects that may have been on your got-to-learn-about-someday list for some time now. First up is a Polo Clinic at Cityfront Center, 455 N. McClurg Court (on the south side of the North Pier slip). Polo pro Adam Butler, manager of the Chicago Polo Club, will explain terms like "chukker" and "knockout" before a pair of bouts, including the club's face-off against a team from Hawaii. Things get under way at 1 PM; it's $5. Call 243-1870 for more. If polo is a bit too tony for you, how about an exotic tango? An Argentine Spectacular dance fest features the group Su Majestad el Bandoneon and begins at 7 PM at Chicago Dance, 3660 W. Irving Park. It's $10. Call 267-3411 for more.

Monday 17

Gus Giordano's Jazz Dance World Congress begins in Evanston this year with a Dancing in the Streets Block Party. Along with the usual spectrum of music and food, look for Mayor Joan Barr and singer Geraldine de Haas to kick things off at 4 PM. The Ron Modell Orchestra plays later along with demonstrations every half hour by dancers from around the world. It's all free at Fountain Square, at the intersection of Orrington, Sherman, and Davis in Evanston. Call 708-328-1574 for more.

If you saw Spalding Gray's most recent filmed monologue, Monster in a Box, you know that the monster is "a book I've been working on for the past four years . . . It's 1,900 pages long. There's a copy on my editor's desk, and he's beginning to cut." That book is now a 238-page novel called Impossible Vacation; Gray will read from it and answer questions at 7:30 tonight at the Goodman Theatre, 200 S. Columbus. It's $10, $8 for Goodman subscribers. Call 443-3800 for details.

Tuesday 18

You've got two opportunities to dance for free today. First, at 12:15 this afternoon, the Chicago Cultural Center's Nostalgia at Noon series presents an hour of two-stepping and other dancing to the music and "calling" of the Special Consensus bluegrass band, a local institution whose 1990 album was nominated for a Grammy. It's in Preston Bradley Hall at the center, 78 E. Washington. Call 744-1424 for more. Second, if you missed Sunday's tango party, try the Chicago Tango Club's bimonthly night at Cairo, 720 N. Wells. Dancing and lessons run from 6 to 8:30 on the first and third Tuesdays of every month this fall. Call 266-6620 for more.

Wednesday 19

Poet and journalist Rohan Preston draws on his childhood in Jamaica, his education in New York, and his current life as a poet and journalist in Chicago for his first book of poems, Dreams in Soy Sauce. He reads tonight at 5:30 in the Authors Room on the seventh floor of the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State. It's free. Call 747-4740 for details.

Thursday 20

The Chicago Park District's massive Concerts in the Park series (84 concerts in 68 different parks over the course of the summer) hits downtown today with a free performance by the Chicago Symphonic Wind Ensemble at noon in Grant Park at Congress. The band plans to essay some marches and selections from musicals like The Sound of Music and Oliver. The Park District encourages picnic lunches and lawn chairs. Call 294-2320 for more.

"We know more about the life span of automobile tires than we know about the life span of implants," admits FDA commish David Kessler. The Women's Health Resources center at Illinois Masonic Hospital will address this knowledge gap at tonight's meeting called Women With Silicone Breast Implants: What Do We Do Now? This get-together is one in a regular series of meetings on the subject designed to combat both a lack of information generally and the societal prejudice against women who've had implants for aesthetic reasons, and the resulting "conflicting and disturbing advice." The free series begins at 7 in the center's second-floor meeting room, 1003 W. Wellington. Call 525-1177 for more.

Italian architect Giuseppe Terragni's short but productive career in the years following World War I included works that ranged in style from simple classical revival to abstractions of modernism. Folks at the Graham Foundation say his monuments account for some of the most important architectural works of the 20s. Tonight Terragni's "philosophical search for the infinite" and his plans for two unbuilt works serve as the subject of Squaring the Circle: Terragni's Grasp for the Infinite, a free lecture starting at 8 at the foundation, 4 W. Burton. The talk opens a three-week exhibition of Terragni's plans for the two unrealized projects. Call 787-4071 for more.

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